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.  


  1. Anonymous2:54 PM

    I will exit my 20s in another month and i feel only too ready to exit this life.
    Didn't feel like living on, going to work every day or keeping up with this life.
    I was successful and depressed (two things people think don't go together)
    I was already sad, but clinical depression was triggered by a cousin who passed away suddenly after a bout of dengue.
    I have studied astrology, tarot and numerology since. Attended meditation camps
    and am much more peaceful in knowing that all this is reflected in my birth chart.
    Nature has a method in its randomness afterall. At least that's what I believe now.

  2. Nature has its way! When it gives you pain, it also gives you the mechanism to deal with the pain. My father passed away when I was 17 years of age. Before that he was undergoing cancer treatment for over two years. I never thought I could ever deal with him not being there. You see I was his prodigal daughter and he was involved in every tiny weeny bit of my life. Unlike most parents, he never burdened me with expectations of seeing myself growing into an engineer/doctor/astronaut blah blah blah.. He would tell me about vocations of anthropologist to archaeologist with the same enthusiasm. In short, when I first realized that he would not be around for too long, I was shattered. I would think of him constantly when in school and thereafter in college. I would be hanging around with my friends and laughing at a joke and my mind would wander and I would be wondering to myself if my father was still alive at the precise moment. I would send silent prayers to god and would negotiate with them only to see my father alive for the day when I get back home. The next day would start with another prayer. In this whole process I saw the tough man that my father was shrinking in size and strength. The man I looked up to had become a wailing child crying all night unable to bear the pain and the trauma. It were during those moments that I wished he had a peaceful transition. But soon after I would regret the thought and make amends with the god for my foolishness and would pray some more for my father's speedy recovery.. basically for a miracle. While I can relate to the sudden sense of loss that you might have felt as a son you ought to be glad that your father had a quick transition and that he didn't have to endure pain and suffering. There are worst things that could happen to all of us. We just need to share notes to sometimes realize how lucky are. When I am low, I think about the children who suffer from terminal illnesses. How awful it must be as parents to see your child wither away before your eyes. There is always something worse around us. But I understand it is no excuse to not feel your loss. It only gives us the strength to move on with the trivialities of our life... and yes personally I think it is important to shed some tears once in a helps us connect with the vulnerable human side of ourselves, a part which should be left vulnerable..:)

  3. Agree with everything the previous commenter said and I hope you're ok now.

  4. @ Anon:
    Don't believe in astrology, numerology, tarot or any other supernatural explanation. That was the point of my post. Anyways, if it works for you, great!

    @ The girl who grazed imaginary goats:
    First off, what a name!
    Second, really sorry for your loss.
    Third, well, we all have ours ways of coping with stuff. As I mentioned at the end of my post, I wish I had shed some tears. I wish there was a vulnerable side I could connect with. Didn't happen. No regrets now.

    @ Coconut Chutney:
    Ok now. Life goes on. I took vacations, I got back to work, continued blogging and writing crappy verse, continued making terrible PJs.
    The vacation overdrive is partly because I know my dad wanted to visit a lot of places, and he was ticking them off his list one by one, but he couldn't complete his list. I haven't made a list, but I have now realized that sitting and staring at an excel model for 14 hours a day is not the reason I am here.