The Passive Consumer vs. the Active Aficionado

The Pas­sive Con­sumer

  • Lis­tens to what­ev­er music is play­ing on radio or stream­ing online
  • Watch­es TV shows when they are aired
  • Watch­es movies just released that every­one is talk­ing about
  • Par­tic­i­pates in trend­ing con­ver­sa­tions on social media
  • Enjoys car­toons, videos, and jokes for­ward­ed on chat apps
  • Is gen­er­al­ly too busy to read books

The Active Afi­ciona­do

  • Has built music playlists to suit every occa­sion, mood, and atmos­phere
  • Is gen­er­al­ly catch­ing up with TV shows after choos­ing which to watch
  • Main­tains a list of movies to watch and rates them after view­ing
  • Needs help under­stand­ing what is trend­ing on social media
  • Is rarely active on chat apps
  • Is busy read­ing books on her care­ful­ly curat­ed to-read list
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Conscience and Guilt

When we say, express, or do some­thing wrong, our con­science pricks us. It is a wound that hurts.

Often, we apply “quick relief” med­ica­tion to that wound:

  • Oh, I’m sor­ry, I didn’t know” (when one very well knew)
  • I’m sor­ry, I didn’t mean to hurt you” (when one very well knew it could hurt)
  • I had no idea my behav­ior would be per­ceived by you in that way, I’m sor­ry” (when one very well knew it could be per­ceived that way)
  • Yes, in my writ­ing that arti­cle, I copied from what was writ­ten ear­li­er by some­one else. I just didn’t think my arti­cle would be read so wide­ly.”
    (Please for­give me for the theft, I didn’t think any­one would notice).
  • I’m sor­ry dar­ling, I did not ini­ti­ate it. It was she who hugged me and then kissed me, I had no choice but to suc­cumb.”
    (I did not with­draw from the hug and stop her from any fur­ther inti­ma­cy).
  • These “quick relief” med­ica­tions are a short term solu­tion to address the guilt we feel with­in our­selves.

Do these “quick relief” med­ica­tions work in the long term? They may ame­lio­rate the prob­lem in our rela­tion­ships, but they’re not long-term solu­tions.
The guilt per­sists. Our con­science doesn’t give up so eas­i­ly, nei­ther does it for­get soon. Our con­science is a tough bas­tard with an unfor­get­table mem­o­ry, and it just feels like a chained iron ball that restricts us from wan­der­ing free.

What do we next do to cling to sup­port in our quest to ignore our con­science? Time.
We hope that over time, our mis­take, our trans­gres­sions, and our wrong behav­ior will be for­got­ten and buried over the sands of time. That iron ball chained to us will become a for­got­ten arche­o­log­i­cal arti­fact.

If, in the short-term, we suc­cess­ful­ly apply “quick relief” med­ica­tion, in the long term, our con­science will no longer remem­ber those wounds and those mis­takes.
But it doesn’t work that way. Our con­science is indomitable, even time doesn’t over­pow­er it. Our fee­ble attempts to van­quish our guilt by wait­ing it out don’t work.

The only way to defeat and over­pow­er our con­science is to accept the guilt, accept the mis­take we made, inter­nal­ize what we did wrong, and learn from it.
Con­science and guilt have no time lim­its, they will wait for­ev­er for us to accept our mis­takes. We can’t over­pow­er them by hop­ing they will fade and cease to exist over time.

We spend a lot of time in our lives evad­ing, neglect­ing, and sup­press­ing our con­science.
I think if we paid more atten­tion to it, our lives would be so much hap­pi­er.

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Learning on Teacher’s Day

We had a teacher in school who used to hit us with the edge of a wood­en ruler on our knuck­les when we were wrong. We also had a teacher who, when she entered the class­room, would be received by ram­bunc­tious hooli­gans shout­ing at the top of their voic­es. The amaz­ing thing was, this teacher, went on teach­ing math­e­mat­ics on the black­board, seem­ing­ly imper­vi­ous to the chaot­ic and bois­ter­ous scene in the class­room.

I pitied those teach­ers. They nev­er real­ly taught us any­thing. They seemed to be doing a job.

And then there were oth­ers.

There were those who cared about teach­ing. Mrs. Parad­kar was my school teacher who went out of the way. She taught us Marathi and San­skrit, but what stood out was her guid­ance dur­ing spe­cial events like 2nd Octo­ber, the Gand­hi Jayan­ti, and 15th August, the Inde­pen­dence Day. I was always a part of the singing group and she not only rehearsed us in the bha­jans and the anthem, but also explained their mean­ing so we sang with con­vic­tion.

She took a lik­ing to me over the years, and I vis­it­ed her home. She fed me, and gift­ed me books of Swa­mi Vivekanan­da, which I still trea­sure. There was no oth­er teacher like her.

Being an unre­al­is­tic ide­al­ist, as a young kid, I felt I should not be study­ing in this restric­tive Indi­an sys­tem of edu­ca­tion, and decid­ed to apply to US uni­ver­si­ties for an under­grad­u­ate admis­sion. When need­ing rec­om­men­da­tion let­ters from my school teach­ers, I was faced with a dif­fi­cult prob­lem. Which teacher, from a small sub­urb of Mum­bai, would give me a nice­ly writ­ten rec­om­men­da­tion let­ter for US uni­ver­si­ties? Mrs. Thomas came to the res­cue and she gave me a nice let­ter that accom­pa­nied my appli­ca­tions. I will for­ev­er be indebt­ed to her for her kind­ness.

In col­lege, I was gen­er­al­ly unhap­py with my teach­ers and used to rebel against them. My rebel­lion was actu­al­ly against the rigid aca­d­e­m­ic sys­tem, not my pro­fes­sors, but I was too young to know that.

One pro­fes­sor stood out, Mr. Chugani. He did not just teach us fol­low­ing the syl­labus, he made us think for our­selves. I felt so lib­er­at­ed at being able to do my own exper­i­ments in the mechan­ics lab, which were out of our syl­labus, but still being able to con­duct those exper­i­ments, write obser­va­tions in our jour­nal and have Pro­fes­sor Chugani review them.

That was true learn­ing and Pro­fes­sor Chugani under­stood and encour­aged it. I was blessed to have a teacher like him. I am also blessed to have made friends with him over the years.

Life itself is a great teacher, but we fail to learn from it. What we need is a help­ing hand, a guide, a men­tor, who helps us nav­i­gate life’s dif­fi­cul­ties.

On this Teacher’s Day, I bow to every­one who has taught me, and ask for their for­give­ness if there was a les­son I did not learn. The biggest les­son I’ve learnt is that I did not learn enough from my teach­ers.

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The Unpleasant Visit to the Barber

I hate going to the bar­ber to have a hair­cut. It is a com­plete waste of time and I am dis­mayed at the cumu­la­tive num­ber of hours I have wast­ed of my life vis­it­ing the bar­ber.

Of course, these days, nobody refers to a “bar­ber shop”. It is a hair­dress­er, or saloon, a par­lor, or a beau­ti­cian. A saloon is a bar in the whole world, except in South Asia, where it is a bar­ber shop. What­ev­er fan­cy names they come up with, for what they do with our hair, they are bar­bers.

Grow­ing up in a mid­dle-class fam­i­ly in urban Mum­bai, I have become used to vis­it­ing these mid­dle-income bar­ber shops and don’t vis­it the fanci­er saloons or par­lors. Also, I have found that the fanci­er the place, the more imper­son­al­ly they treat you.

A vis­it to the bar­ber, just like with a doc­tor, or den­tist, starts with wait­ing. In this wait­ing peri­od of time, I have a choice of glanc­ing at sexy pho­to shopped Bol­ly­wood hero­ines in Film­fare or Star­dust, today’s news­pa­per in Eng­lish and the local lan­guage, or sim­ply be busy on my mobile. All these shops must have these Bol­ly­wood glam­our mag­a­zines, else they appar­ent­ly don’t get any busi­ness.

Mean­while I occa­sion­al­ly glance at the cus­tomers being served and won­der when they’re going to fin­ish. Then I am amazed at how long men like look­ing at them­selves in the mir­ror. His­tor­i­cal­ly, this has been assumed to be a fem­i­nine trait, but vis­it any typ­i­cal men’s bar­ber shop in India and you will dis­cov­er the truth.

They just don’t fin­ish. There is a lit­tle strand here that should be trimmed or an angle there that is just not quite right. And there’s a bit of trim­ming required here and one hair that needs to be cut there. Then the bar­ber holds up a mir­ror behind them so they can see their rear and then oth­er require­ments come up. This is when I seri­ous­ly think that the cus­tomers have stud­ied a Bol­ly­wood hero in those glam­our mag­a­zines while they were wait­ing.

Bar­bers appar­ent­ly don’t earn much so they have evolved to be masseuses. After the hair­cut, a head and shoul­der mas­sage seems as essen­tial as dessert after a meal.

My approach when I final­ly get into the chair is “just do it, and get it done quick­ly”.

I do not like being tied with a noose around the neck with an over­flow­ing tow­el. I do not like how the bar­ber casu­al­ly leans against me and I am left won­der­ing if my elbow is inad­ver­tent­ly touch­ing his groin instead of the stom­ach. I have to keep my mouth closed and be care­ful of my eyes to avoid the hair. I pon­der over the exis­ten­tial ques­tion of how I am to instruct him ver­bal­ly when I can’t open my eyes or mouth. I have to peri­od­i­cal­ly request the bar­ber to brush my face. On top of all this, I have to endure some pathet­ic music or movie on the TV that the bar­ber uses to enter­tain him­self.

By the time the exer­cise ends, the expe­ri­ence is not too dif­fer­ent from a vis­it to the den­tist. No won­der these guys once also per­formed surgery and den­tistry.

Hair once served a use­ful func­tion dur­ing the evo­lu­tion process from apes to us. Why do we still have eye­brows and eye­lash­es and mous­tach­es and beards but are not entire­ly cov­ered in hair like apes or oth­er ani­mals? Because each has served an evo­lu­tion­ary func­tion.

Those apes or cave­men wan­dered through the jun­gle in rain and inclement weath­er. Those whose eyes were pro­tect­ed by eye­brows and eye­lash­es sur­vived. Oth­ers who did not have mous­tach­es prob­a­bly had some poi­son drip­ping into their mouth. Ones with beards had few­er scratch­es left on their face after fight­ing with wild ani­mals, and whom the females then chose to mate with.

But what func­tion does scalp hair play today oth­er than pro­vid­ing a pro­fes­sion to bar­bers and hair­dressers? It is just a use­less evo­lu­tion­ary ves­tige, like the appen­dix. Which is why when I think of the bar­ber, the bar­bar­ian comes to mind.

Also, when an advanced alien species is fea­tured in main­stream cul­ture, they are always bald.

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How Atheists Are Also Often Spiritual

Can an athe­ist be spir­i­tu­al?

I posed this ques­tion on social media and the respons­es ranged from the resound­ing­ly affir­ma­tive to out­right neg­a­tive. Exam­ple of the affir­ma­tive:

Cer­tain­ly. I’m an athe­ist, but I spend more time think­ing about spir­i­tu­al things & read­ing reli­gious books than most the­ists I know.”

And the neg­a­tive:

The word spir­it embod­ies some­thing incor­po­re­al and athe­ists should not not have a prob­lem with it.”

I have vis­it­ed this ques­tion sev­er­al times over the years and have tend­ed towards the affir­ma­tive.

It seems the objec­tion to athe­ists being spir­i­tu­al comes from an assump­tion that all athe­ists are mate­ri­al­ists. Since “spir­it”, “soul”, etc. are imag­i­nary con­cepts with­out phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions, an athe­ist should log­i­cal­ly reject them. But athe­ism does not log­i­cal­ly imply mate­ri­al­ism.

The root cause of the ambi­gu­i­ty sur­round­ing this issue is that spir­i­tu­al­i­ty has no uni­ver­sal­ly accept­ed def­i­n­i­tion. When a con­cept remains unde­fined, sub­jec­tive inter­pre­ta­tions fol­low, lead­ing to con­tra­dic­to­ry opin­ions and dis­agree­ments.

Through­out his­to­ry, spir­i­tu­al­ism has been hijacked by reli­gion. After twen­ty one cen­turies of record­ed human exis­tence, one finds it dif­fi­cult to dis­cuss spir­i­tu­al­i­ty with­out being under the shad­ow of orga­nized reli­gion. That is sad and athe­ists are to blame. Which is why this post.

As an aside, also observe how the tra­di­tion­al age-old busi­ness of reli­gious gurus has now evolved to encom­pass the agnos­tics and athe­ists by the advent of spir­i­tu­al gurus.

I will not attempt at a def­i­n­i­tion of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, but I will try to arrive at a mean­ing agree­able to most athe­ists, that helps the the­ists and agnos­tics under­stand how we athe­ists con­sid­er our­selves to be spir­i­tu­al.

Spir­i­tu­al­i­ty is expe­ri­enc­ing a con­nec­tion between some­thing deep inside you and some­thing unknown in the out­side world, an expe­ri­ence in which your self dis­solves into noth­ing­ness and you are one with the uni­verse.

The usu­al word used for “some­thing deep inside you” is “soul” but I pur­pose­ly avoid­ed using it, since it can lead to fur­ther ambi­gu­i­ties. And yes, we athe­ists are com­fort­able with the fact that there are still lim­its to human knowl­edge, that we still need to refer to “some­thing” deep inside you, and that many things in this uni­verse are still unknown to us. We just don’t ascribe a God to them.

Some athe­ists expe­ri­ence this con­nec­tion dur­ing med­i­ta­tion. Some when play­ing a sport, when they lose their con­scious­ness and play sub­lime­ly. Some when gaz­ing at the Milky Way. Some when lis­ten­ing to some par­tic­u­lar music. Some when dri­ving a car on an emp­ty road. Some when intox­i­cat­ed. Some when play­ing chess. Some when hyp­no­tized. Some when watch­ing dis­tant galax­ies through a tele­scope. Some when read­ing. Some when hik­ing on a moun­tain trail. Some when writ­ing, as I am right now.

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A Confession of my Quirky Habits

This is an assort­ed com­pi­la­tion, com­ing from an unqui­et mind. Here is a list of my quirks in no par­tic­u­lar order.

  • I always arrange cur­ren­cy notes in order of denom­i­na­tion in my wal­let. If my wal­let has 3 com­part­ments for cur­ren­cy notes, I can group them eas­i­ly. If only 2, I use dri­ving license or oth­er card to cre­ate arti­fi­cial sep­a­ra­tor so I can group in 3 – 500/1000s, 100/50s, and 20/10s.
  • I have a fixed time for heat­ing my tea cup or cof­fee mug in the microwave. As the cup or mug rotates to the fixed time, the end result may not bring the cup or mug han­dle at a con­ve­nient posi­tion, thus I know how to exact­ly place it before­hand, so that it does.
  • Dur­ing the old ‘80s era, I nev­er took a cas­sette out of the cas­sette play­er unless it was com­plete­ly wound to one side.
  • When I push my seat back in a flight, I secret­ly pray that the trav­eller behind me is not being incon­ve­nienced. But I still secret­ly feel guilty some­where deep inside for doing that with­out know­ing it. Then I resolve my guilt ‘ratio­nal­ly’ say­ing to myself, either the pas­sen­ger behind can let me know if there is any incon­ve­nience or it’s the airline’s fault for design­ing seat­ing this way any­way.
  • I can’t break an egg with­out think­ing I’m destroy­ing a life so I do it hes­i­tant­ly and ama­teur­ish­ly.
  • I used to have the exact change for the bus fare before get­ting into a crowd­ed bus, so I would not have to scram­ble when I buy my tick­et from the con­duc­tor amidst the chaos inside the bus.
  • Most folks seem to enjoy watch­ing movies while pass­ing com­ments and mak­ing jokes about them. I can’t par­tic­i­pate in this group-movie-watch­ing, and pre­fer to watch movies by myself or with a close set of friends. I am not a pop­corn-movie-watch­er.
  • When trav­el­ling to inte­ri­or parts of Indi­an states, when hav­ing a cup of tea or the local snacks, I leave what­ev­er change there is to the ven­dor. I nev­er give alms to beg­gars, but always give extra to rur­al folk who work for their hard earned mon­ey.
  • I nev­er leave an opened book turned upside down at the page I was read­ing. For any­one who wor­ships books, that is blas­phe­my. Either use a book­mark or remem­ber the page. I am dis­gust­ed at peo­ple who keep opened books upturned.
  • I always install a new ver­sion of Win­dows as a fresh install, nev­er upgrade. Yes, I need to rein­stall all the apps I need, but I think it’s worth it.
  • I can nev­er leave a news­pa­per with­out all its pages fold­ed cor­rect­ly and arranged in the fash­ion it came out of the print­ing press. I dis­like peo­ple who treat news­pa­pers casu­al­ly leav­ing pages scat­tered.
  • I can nev­er under­stand peo­ple who can switch from one genre of music to anoth­er seam­less­ly. To me, it seems the music nev­er per­co­lates into their soul, they just lis­ten to it super­fi­cial­ly.

These are a few of my eccen­tric habits. But that is me.

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The Fifth Pillar of Indian Democracy

Indi­an democ­ra­cy is said to rest on the ven­er­a­ble four pil­lars of the leg­is­la­ture, the exec­u­tive, the judi­cia­ry, and the press.

All the four pil­lars have cracked to a great degree and Indi­an democ­ra­cy is not healthy.

In brief, we have:

  • A leg­is­la­ture epit­o­mized by a non-func­tion­ing Par­lia­ment
  • An exec­u­tive whose pow­er is cen­tral­ized in two indi­vid­u­als
  • A judi­cia­ry that is out­dat­ed, back­logged, and cor­rupt
  • A press that has no free­dom of speech

Let me elab­o­rate.


We have a strong gov­ern­ment with anti-nation­al right-wing extrem­ist ele­ments who brazen­ly con­tin­ue to dis­rupt the social fab­ric with its Hin­dut­va agen­da, result­ing in increas­ing hos­til­i­ty in rad­i­cal Islamists, and a lead­er­ship that abstains from pub­licly denounc­ing them.

We have a crum­bling, dynas­tic, and lead­er­less nation­al oppo­si­tion par­ty, which refus­es to evolve beyond its myopic, his­tor­i­cal and out­dat­ed think­ing.

Final­ly, we have a pletho­ra of region­al and/or caste-based par­ties with pop­ulist agen­das and demo­c­ra­t­ic pow­er to dis­rupt the leg­isla­tive process of our Par­lia­ment, none of whom act beyond region­al or caste-based ide­olo­gies in nation­al inter­est, act­ing instead to attract atten­tion with histri­on­ics.

For a healthy democ­ra­cy, with a thriv­ing leg­is­la­ture, we need to have a cred­i­ble oppo­si­tion.


There are no seri­ous debates about any leg­isla­tive act; the only oppo­si­tion to any leg­is­la­tion is dri­ven by pop­ulist polit­i­cal agen­das that sac­ri­fice nation­al inter­est at every oppor­tu­ni­ty. The leg­is­la­ture is now so severe­ly hand­i­capped that the gov­ern­ment has to resort to “ordi­nances”, i.e. the exec­u­tive, to enact, i.e. act.


It is no secret that our cur­rent crop of min­is­ters are only pup­pets pulled by strings held by the PM.

Oth­er coun­tries may well be for­giv­en for not know­ing who India’s For­eign Min­is­ter is, for the PM has per­son­al­ly dom­i­nat­ed for­eign pol­i­cy and vis­its in con­spic­u­ous absence of the FM.

A well func­tion­ing exec­u­tive would have a Cab­i­net of Min­is­ters where dis­cus­sions and debates hap­pen, but nobody in India has any illu­sions about what tran­spires in today’s cab­i­net: dik­tats from PM end all dis­cus­sions and debates. In pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments, it was the dynas­tic “high com­mand”.

A cohe­sive, dic­ta­to­r­i­al Exec­u­tive is good for the coun­try in terms of effi­cien­cy and reforms, but not when it com­pro­mis­es sus­tain­abil­i­ty in the long term.

As in-depth observers note, India’s Exec­u­tive is con­trolled by only two men: Our PM and FM. Which is at best unhealthy, giv­en the his­to­ry of India’s diver­si­ty, rea­soned demo­c­ra­t­ic dis­sent and debate.


We have a judi­cia­ry bur­dened with a huge back­log and a his­to­ry of cor­rup­tion.

A judi­cia­ry that has become embroiled in gov­er­nance issues because of cor­rup­tion in gov­ern­ment.

A judi­cia­ry whose Supreme Court ex-jus­tice thinks a Bol­ly­wood star­let should be the Pres­i­dent of India. A for­mer Supreme Court judge (ex-High Court of Del­hi, Chen­nai, and Alla­habad) who ranks Chief Min­is­te­r­i­al can­di­dates based on their fem­i­nine beau­ty.

A judi­cia­ry which upholds Sec­tion 377 of the Indi­an Penal Code framed in 1860, that con­sid­ers homo­sex­u­al inter­course as a crim­i­nal offence. In case you won­der why, read this from the for­mer Supreme Court judge:

To ful­fill this role of nature, a woman has to get hold of a man, not mere­ly to make her preg­nant, but also to look after her and pro­vide for her finan­cial­ly while she is per­form­ing this role.”


We have a press whose free­dom of speech no longer exists, a media that is owned and con­trolled by cor­po­rate con­glom­er­ates, and TV chan­nels that are besot­ted with cov­er­ing every polit­i­cal melo­dra­ma on a minute-by-minute basis irre­spec­tive of its irrel­e­vance in nation­al or long term sig­nif­i­cance.

The more melo­dra­mat­ic minu­ti­ae the media hap­pi­ly laps up as “Break­ing News” in the end­less quest for high­er TRPs, the more polit­i­cal par­ties are hap­py to sup­ply the goods, fur­ther inca­pac­i­tat­ing the leg­is­la­ture.

The Silent Fifth Pillar

Is there hope? Yes, there is.

There is a fifth pil­lar of our democ­ra­cy which unfor­tu­nate­ly has not been chris­tened as such, nev­er giv­en its due in the the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work of pil­lars under­pin­ning democ­ra­cies.


That pil­lar is the Indi­an cit­i­zen, who has been glo­ri­ous­ly fea­tured on the front page of India’s lead­ing dai­ly news­pa­per for over five decades.

The “com­mon man” is always silent, except when it is elec­tion time. His “voice” is heard only once in every five years.


In the last gen­er­al elec­tion, he has spo­ken the loud­est in two decades. Still, nei­ther the oppo­si­tion, nor the extrem­ist ele­ments in the rul­ing gov­ern­ment have lis­tened.

As an opti­mist, I have faith he will con­tin­ue to speak. With all the oth­er so-called “pil­lars” of our democ­ra­cy crum­bling, the true, sol­id pil­lar of the Indi­an cit­i­zen is our only hope for gen­er­a­tions to come.

P.S. If you have read this far, please do also read the first “relat­ed post” from 2009.

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Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes, Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression

I grew up watch­ing Jere­my Brett in one of my best loved TV series of Sher­lock Holmes.Jeremy_Brett_as_Hamlet

Brett was the quin­tes­sen­tial Holmes, nobody, nei­ther Basil Rath­bone nor Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch can come close to epit­o­miz­ing the essen­tial Sher­lock. In 2014, Brett was vot­ed the Great­est Sher­lock Holmes beat­ing oth­er actors who have also played the icon­ic role.

For a stage actor who played Shakespeare’s Ham­let and Mac­beth, Sher­lock must have been very easy. Not so.

Holmes is the hard­est part I have ever played — hard­er than Ham­let or Mac­beth.”

What I, and I sus­pect many, don’t know is that Jere­my had a men­tal ill­ness.

Jeremy_Brett_as_Sherlock_HolmesIn the lat­ter half of 1986, he exhib­it­ed wild mood swings that alarmed every­body, and after per­sua­sion to seek treat­ment of bipo­lar dis­or­der, he was giv­en Lithi­um. This is why his phys­i­cal appear­ance notice­ably changed in the episodes filmed after 1987. He put on weight and his body start­ed retain­ing water. He would have dif­fi­cul­ties breath­ing and often need­ed an oxy­gen mask dur­ing the film­ing.

But, dar­lings, the show must go on”, was his only com­ment.

As a roman­tic, my unqui­et mind has often been tempt­ed to think that it was play­ing Sher­lock, tru­ly imbib­ing the char­ac­ter he was por­tray­ing, that led to his men­tal ill­ness.

But that is wrong. There are def­i­nite psy­cho­log­i­cal effects of method act­ing but that was not the case with Brett. He was a vic­tim of bipo­lar dis­or­der whether he played Sher­lock or not.

In his lat­er years, he pub­licly acknowl­edged his ill­ness and strove to raise pub­lic aware­ness about it. Here is a rare audio voice over of Jere­my Brett talk­ing about bipo­lar depres­sion.

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Holy Shit” of Terror: Middle Ages & Renaissance

Ser­i­al killers are a spe­cial kind of breed for law enforce­ment agen­cies. This has been a pop­u­lar germ for numer­ous movies and count­less nov­els. Detec­tives inves­ti­gat­ing ser­i­al mur­ders build a pro­file of the killer based on gath­ered evi­dence, then match clues to the pro­file, which even­tu­al­ly lead them to the iden­ti­ty of the ser­i­al killer. In these inves­ti­ga­tions, the Behav­ioral Sci­ences Unit of the FBI plays a major role in the ini­tial pro­fil­ing.Zodiac_blog_2100x147

Where is An Unqui­et Mind going with this, you may won­der.

I am read­ing Michael Connelly’s A Dark­ness More Than Night, a reg­u­lar police pro­ce­dur­al.

Among the dif­fer­ent types of ser­i­al mur­der­ers, there is one cat­e­go­ry of cas­es where reli­gion is involved. These cas­es are col­lo­qui­al­ly termed “Holy Shit” cas­es by FBI pro­fil­ers.

Cave Cave Dus Videt
Cave Cave D(ominu)us Videt
Beware Beware God Sees

Holy Shit,” McCaleb said qui­et­ly to him­self. It was not said as an excla­ma­tion. Rather, it was the phrase he and fel­low bureau pro­fil­ers had used to infor­mal­ly clas­si­fy cas­es in which reli­gious over­tures were part of the evi­dence. When God was dis­cov­ered to be part of the prob­a­ble moti­va­tion for a crime, it became a “holy shit” case when spo­ken of in casu­al con­ver­sa­tion.

This is where the unqui­et mind kicked in full gear. What fol­lowed next:

It also changed things sig­nif­i­cant­ly, for God’s work was nev­er done. When a killer was out there using His name as part of the imprint of a crime, it often meant there would be more crimes. It was said in the bureau pro­fil­ing offices that God’s killers nev­er stopped of their own voli­tion. They had to be stopped.

Sub­sti­tute a mob in place of a ser­i­al killer and what you have is a seem­ing­ly unstop­pable mob soci­ety com­mit­ting mass mur­der in the name of God. The his­to­ry of reli­gious vio­lence over thou­sands of years of human his­to­ry is proof. Name a reli­gion and there is a group com­mit­ting mass mur­der in its name, at any point in human his­to­ry, past or present.

How about Stal­in and Hitler who com­mit­ted geno­cide of mil­lions, but were not asso­ci­at­ed with any reli­gious ide­al­ism?

What dis­tin­guish­es the inde­scrib­able atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Stal­in and Hitler is pre­cise­ly what Con­nel­ly, though unin­ten­tion­al­ly, observed above. Nei­ther Stalin’s or Hitler’s heirs prop­a­gat­ed the geno­cide. They were stopped, per­ma­nent­ly. The ide­ol­o­gy behind their actions could not sur­vive real­i­ty and the col­lec­tive human force on the plan­et. How­ev­er, in the case of reli­gion, ide­ol­o­gy over­comes real­i­ty – reli­gious ide­ol­o­gy, when it’s God-moti­vat­ed, is a dif­fi­cult cock­roach to exter­mi­nate.

In this and the past cen­tu­ry, God-based vio­lence has been decried by the “peace-lov­ing” reli­gious advo­cates as being posi­tions of “extrem­ist” fac­tions, for whom the reli­gion is “peace-lov­ing”, and is thus, not to blame.

From the past Chris­t­ian cru­sades to the cur­rent Mus­lim jihad, from Saf­fron ter­ror to Sikh extrem­ism, all reli­gions have caused mass-ser­i­al-killings on an unimag­in­able scale. Holy shit.

Observe the nature of change in reli­gious vio­lence. It was eas­i­er in medieval eras to iso­late and burn heretics on the stake. In the mod­ern world, it’s not so easy, hence one needs to make a pub­lic state­ment of vio­lence against the pub­lic in gen­er­al. Because much of today’s pub­lic is “civ­i­lized”. The medieval strate­gies of burn­ing heretics on the stake don’t work in today’s soci­ety, so they need to kill on the mass scale to make a state­ment.

It is called “ter­ror­ism” in recent decades, but its roots lie in thou­sands of years past.

Is human soci­ety ful­ly “civ­i­lized”? Not at all, most of them still hold one or the oth­er reli­gion as their phi­los­o­phy of life, while decry­ing vio­lence on that religion’s behalf.

It took thou­sands of years for humans to emerge out of the dark­ness of the Mid­dle Ages, which was fol­lowed by the Renais­sance. I am just hop­ing that we evolve out of our cur­rent Dig­i­tal-Mid­dle-Age so that our kids or our grand­chil­dren can achieve peace­ful glo­ry and hap­pi­ness in their Dig­i­tal Renais­sance.

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Who is an “Intellectual”?

Dur­ing my younger days, I used to dis­tin­guish peo­ple by whether they were intel­lec­tu­al or not.

In those years, I was naïve enough to express it direct­ly: “Sor­ry, but you’re not an intel­lec­tu­al.” It was much lat­er that I real­ized what an insult it was to my friends.

Almost all my friends and every­one who knew me then start­ed to use the term derog­a­tive­ly. From “Oh, I can’t under­stand this because I’m not an intel­lec­tu­al” to “Oh, this is main­stream com­mon knowl­edge, but you wouldn’t know it, because you’re an intel­lec­tu­al”. These expres­sions were expressed with a sneer, as if being an intel­lec­tu­al, I was some­how to blame, and should be ashamed of myself.

As a result, I stopped using this con­cept in all my com­mu­ni­ca­tion with peo­ple because I real­ized it was being per­ceived as judg­men­tal.

Then I observed how this adjec­tive was being reg­u­lar­ly used in main­stream lit­er­a­ture and media, from TV shows to news­pa­per op-eds. “Intel­lec­tu­als” were folks who were left­ist and activists for the Marx­ist cause. “Intel­lec­tu­als” were those who go on hunger strikes against any and all cap­i­tal­is­tic endeavor.”Intellectuals” were sym­pa­thiz­ers with the Maoist insur­gency in India. “Intel­lec­tu­als” were those who lead the work­ers of a labor union to fight against the injus­tice being met­ed out to them by their evil cor­po­rate big­wigs.

I have not seen any con­cept that has been so dis­tort­ed, twist­ed to uti­lize for or against pro­pa­gan­da, mis­un­der­stood, and most often mis­in­ter­pret­ed. A virtue that has been adju­di­cat­ed as a vice,  a qual­i­ty that is con­sid­ered deroga­to­ry and spo­ken of in pejo­ra­tive terms, derid­ed being an “intel­lec­tu­al”.

The fun­da­men­tal mis­un­der­stand­ing is the per­cep­tion that not being an intel­lec­tu­al equates to not being intel­li­gent. Because the words are so pho­net­i­cal­ly close, not being an intel­lec­tu­al is most often per­ceived as not being intel­li­gent. Which is obvi­ous­ly an insult if you ever express it to any­one.

Every intel­li­gent per­son is not an intel­lec­tu­al, and nei­ther is every intel­lec­tu­al per­son intel­li­gent.

All of us have a lot of beliefs by which we live our lives. These beliefs are our axioms. When some­one ques­tions one of those beliefs, we react defen­sive­ly. We are rarely will­ing to lis­ten and chal­lenge that belief. There is a bar­ri­er.


If we jump across that bar­ri­er, there is a whole new world to dis­cov­er.

Beliefs per­me­ate through soci­ety via osmo­sis. An intel­lec­tu­al is one who is imper­me­ate to that osmo­sis. An intel­lec­tu­al is one who is not only will­ing to chal­lenge his beliefs, but one who will be grate­ful to you if you do so. An intel­lec­tu­al is one who does not auto­mat­i­cal­ly imbibe his society’s val­ue sys­tem but ques­tions it. An intel­lec­tu­al asks “Why?” before he adopts a belief.

An intel­lec­tu­al is an icon­o­clast. But that is not some­thing to be ashamed of, or feel guilty about, it is in fact, some­thing to be cher­ished.

Talk to an intel­lec­tu­al about any top­ic under the sun, and he will either tell you some­thing about the top­ic you didn’t know your­self, or be grate­ful to you for teach­ing him some­thing new. An intel­lec­tu­al is that adult who has not lost his child­hood curios­i­ty.

An intel­lec­tu­al is one who not only thinks but is will­ing to think.

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