Aug 12, 2014

Coping with/ through randomness...

The human brain is not wired to accept randomness. It always seeks a causal link to everything. The brain needs a link which tells it "If event B happened, then it was caused by some event A." Hence, we see stock analysts pontificate confidently on TV that somebody sneezing in the USA caused Infy's shares to fall, or newspapers confidently stating that India's import bill increased because a camel fell into an oil well in Saudi Arabia. In other words, our brains constantly seek out 'patterns' and 'causes' even when none exist. This is also the reason that a potato with a trunk-like protrusion suddenly becomes a 'Ganpati' to be worshipped.

One of my most liberating experiences was when I learnt to accept randomness. I am not fully there yet, since millions of years of evolution, and twenty plus years of religious brainwashing, cannot be undone just like that. But at least the recognition of the idea that things can happen at random, and there need not be a specific reason for something (good or bad) to happen to me, has helped me immensely.

Of course, being that coldly rational being has not endeared me to people who would rather prefer to assign a reason to everything. Especially in highly emotional situations.

My father passed away a year ago, on this day. August 12. A date that will forever remain etched in my memory. He was 61, a diabetic, but with no serious ailment. He was walking around, chatting with people, living the normal retired life, to his very last day. And then, one day I leave for office, and come back and he is no more.

I don't know how a normal human being reacts to such an event. I sometimes doubt whether there is such a thing as a 'normal' human being. I saw people cry. I saw them rally around in support. I saw my mom completely break down, then recover, and then slowly slip into, what I suspect is, depression. And I hope she'll come out of it eventually.

People also started assigning causes.

Some called it karma. The actions of his previous birth.

Some consoled us by saying god calls those who are dear to him quicker, and hence good souls meet their end early.

Some doubted the efficacy of the priests who had conducted the Shashtiabdapoorthi, since doing the pooja was accompanied by an 'ayush homam' which is supposed to ensure a long life.

Some hinted that we may have missed doing some ritual, and hence had incurred our ancestors' wrath. And accordingly suggested that we should consult some astrologer and remedy the situation.

Some suggested that our house had bad vaastu, since he passed away within 2 months of us moving home.

And so on. And so forth.

The only way I could cope was thus:
What is the probability of a person dying once he takes birth?
One. Nothing is more certain in life, than the fact that it will one day end.

By focusing on that cold, logical part, I coped. That, and the acceptance that randomness is reality.

Aided by a realization that a person may die, but his ideas, the values he stood for and his memories live on.

There are times I wish I wasn't this pragmatic robot. That I had shed some tears. That I had blamed karma, god, vaastu or some such entity. Or clung on to the hope that the soul goes to heaven, and all is well after that.

Unfortunately, I can't unlearn what I have learnt. Knowledge is a curse.

Ignorance, truly, is bliss.