Monday, December 28, 2009

Genius or Genious?

Genuis or Genious? Confusing right? There is just a difference of one alphabet in these two spellings. Technically, the first spelling is the right one. It means the genius, the geek or whatever. But the second one is what one calls another person when they are trying to put down the other's intelligence mostly in a public setting. In a way, this can be compared to a sarcastic yet subtle way of belittling someone who claims himself to be super-intelligent. Often idiots call themselves genious ignorant of the fact that the word is spelled as genius, which is completely ironical. I was trying to think of the spelling for the word genius :P and well I wont tell you the spelling that came to my mind :D. I always wanted to become a genius in atleast some aspect. But then, for all I know you can only become a genious, but you have to be genius by birth and cannot artificially induce it in yourself :P.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I am an exception, not a rule!

The first time I heard this dialogue was when I watched this movie ‘He is just not that into you!’ .As the title says, it is a movie basically for girls who just don’t get it sometimes that the guy they are trying to date/dating is just not that into them. The one thing that stuck with me after I finished watching the movie was this dialogue that I am an exception and not a rule. And slowly I began to do a little bit of self introspection. Though, I may not have used the same exact words, but being girly as I could be sometimes: P, I also always have felt the same way. I always wanted to be an exception and not a rule. To me that was not just cool but also a way to get people’s attention. I always wanted to stand out from the crowd. It’s funny, it’s not just me, but almost everyone wants to be an exception and not a rule at some point in life. What happens at such times is that, we get this paradigm into our heads that in any situation, where normally the output is something very predictable, we expect miracles to happen, because we are an exception and cannot accept anything else. But I also noticed that the more I wanted to be exception, the more situations would prove me just a mere rule. In the process of trying to be an exception, I often failed to realize that I first have to be a rule in order to be an exception that rule. So what am I really talking about here? Well let me give some examples, as a kid, I wanted to be the most favorite grandkid of my grandparents, in school, I wanted to be the most favorite student of teachers and then once I went to college, I wanted to be the girl that all guys would want to befriend etc. However in every stage, I had experiences which proved that although I was often trying to be an exception, I was no more than a rule. Paradoxically many times, I did nothing really to become an exception, but it was a just a strong thought and wish in my head that I want to be special. On a positive side, it led me to work harder for anything I did, but on the negative side, it led to nothing more than disappointments, a low self esteem and trying too hard to eventually give up. So, I decided to stop paying attention to these things, though I got to be honest about the fact that even now for some extremely personal situations in life, I still only want to be an exception and not a rule. But overall, I decided to just do what I feel like, do whatever makes me happy and accept reality with a broad mind, instead of paying attention to being an exception. I have also come to realize that, each of us have something special which makes us unique and different from others. So being yourself is the best way to automatically become an exception. Besides, the other thing here is that it is not wrong to strive to be the best but striving hard to be different doesn’t help much. Afterall, being too different doesn’t always make us special and loved, besides, you got to live your life for yourself and not just to look exceptional in the eyes of others.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A true hog of Epicurus's herd!

          So, I am back after a brief hiatus. And as for the post title,well, I always wished, I could be a true hog of Epicurus's herd. For those who don't quite understand what I am trying to say, let me talk about Epicurus and hedonism here. Epicurus was a greek philosopher who taught that supreme tranquility and eternal happiness and peace in life were to do with pleasure and the absence of pain. According to him pleasure and pain are the measures of good and bad respectively. He taught hedonism and ataraxia. Without confusing this much, let me put this in simplest of words - to live a life devoted to pleasure and experience optimal and enduring pleasure. More can be found about Epicurus on wikipedia or google :P.
          Basically right from our childhood we are taught directly and indirectly, the concept of 'no pain, no gain'. Our mind gets trained to associate hardwork with pain and to associate rejecting pleasure with moral good. So although most of us yearn to live a life full of pleasure, we reject the same pleasure considering it something very negative. And thanks to moral ethics and being taught to instill guilt into our ownselves, we often forcefully put ourselves through pain thinking it will remove the guilt and silence our conscience. This goes on and on almost throughout our life. I believe even in pursuit of pleasure, we put ourselves through pain thinking it would take us close to pleasure sooner.
          That being said, a point to be noted is that, while brain knows both the concept of pleasure and that of pain, these are two basically two opposite phenomenons. Biologically our natural tendency is to pursue pleasure and avoid pleasure, which is part of what Epicurus taught as a part of hedonism. But our body needs both the opposing phenomenon for being well controlled. Modern psychology describes Epicurus's teaching in a slightly different manner in terms of a control system. A theory supporting this is the opponent process theory which treats pain and pleasure as two opponent processes for controlling the body. Without delving much into details, I am going to explain a simple phenomenon here called 'Hedonic contrast' using opponent process theory (Originally explained in modern psychology by Richard Solomon a professor in the University of Pennsylvania). Just as we have rebound in several other facets of life, pain and pleasure have the tendency to rebound in the opposite directions after an intense experience of either. In other words, after a strenuous and difficult experience, we feel a lot of pleasure and relief. Similarly, sometimes, after a having a period of extreme joy,we have the tendency to go cranky or even cry or get sad for no reason.
          All said, Epicurus tried to preach the pursuit of pleasure to the extent where it can cancel the opposing force pain. According to him, when you get more pleasure than just what you need, it leads back to pain. For example, when we eat enough to satiate our hunger which can be associated to pain, we would feel pleasure, however when we overeat, we would feel pain again. Pleasure and pain are two opposing yet balancing forces, but no one ever said that in order to pursue pleasure we need to go through pain. We look for pleasure to get rid of pain. It is difficult to change our paradigms about pain and pleasure, but Epicurus did definitely have a point to make.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Stages of Sleep

Sleep is often some lucky people's best friend, while, there are people who yearn to befriend sleep.  I remember watching Insomnia, an Al Pacino movie, where he suffers from insomnia. All I can say is that it was a very well done movie. Whether there is a physical, mental or  an emotional problem, one of the body's natural reaction is an affected sleep. So while I took psychology 101, I studied about sleep. I dont want to write too much in detail here, but instead I just want to talk about stages of sleep in real simple terms.

So basically sleep can be broadly categorized into two types: 
  1. Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM)
  2. Rapid Eye Movement (REM)

Thanks to invention of EEG and other such devices which have helped in studies about sleep.  During each stage of sleep, the brain produces waves which have been studied to identify the various stages of sleep.
Sleep firstly begins with the brain producing beta waves, and you will be pretty much close to awake and alert. As the brain begins to relax and slow down, slower waves known as alpha waves are produced. During this stage we do experience certain hallucinations.- hypnagogic hallucinations to be precise. I will be talking in detail about hallucinations in a different post. People also have what is known as a myoclonic jerk.

Stage 1-NREM

Stage 1 sleep is the beginning stage of sleep. In Stage 1, the brain produces theta waves. This period of sleep lasts only around 5-10 minutes.

Stage 2-NREM

Stage 2 is the second stage of sleep and lasts for approximately 20 minutes.  During this stage, the brain begins to produce bursts of rapid, rhythmic brain wave activity known as sleep spindles. Body temperature starts to decrease and heart rate begins to slow.

Stage 3-NREM

Deep, slow brain waves known as delta waves begin to emerge during stage 3 sleep. It is during this stage, that body tends to get into a deep sleep.

Stage 4-NREM

Stage 4 is a deep sleep that lasts for approximately 30 minutes. Stage 4 is sometimes referred to as delta sleep because of the slow brain waves known as delta waves that occur during this time.

Stage 5 - REM

The 5th stage of sleep is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During this stage, there is eye movement, increased respiration rate, increased brain activity. REM sleep is also referred to as paradoxical sleep because while the brain and other body systems become more active muscles become more relaxed. Dreaming occurs due because of increased brain activity, but voluntary muscles become paralyzed.

Sleep basically occurs in cycles. Sleep begins in stage 1 and progresses into stages 2, 3, and 4. After stage 4 sleep, stage 3 and then stage 2 sleep are repeated before entering REM sleep. Once REM sleep is over, the body usually returns to stage 2 sleep. Sleep cycles through these stages approximately 4 or 5 times throughout the night. REM Sleep in itself is a vast topic and there a lot of funny phenomenon which we do experience once we are out of REM sleep, and I must say it is beyond the scope of this post ;).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I read about Renaissance as a kid in school. But I learnt the meaning of the word better as I grew up. Renaissance is a french word which means re-birth. Almost everyone sometime in life definitely feels, a need to be reborn again and to start all over again.But a close friend explained this to me in a very subtle manner yesterday, renaissance is not really just to die and be born again. In life, everytime we make a mistake, we correct it and then start afresh. In real life Renaissance may or may not be practically possible in the literal self. But metaphorically, it could definitely be compared to just grabbing on to the new chance life presents us to make amends and start over.

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending!"

It could begin with just setting up some new goals for yourself and working towards them. It could begin with accepting any situation as is and deciding to work on it instead if whining about it. It could begin with just letting go. Some people like me have been very lucky to have always had the support and affection of loved ones to help me when my efforts for renaissance are attempted to be ruined by any external forces. Afterall, to err is human, it is so very easy to fall into a pit and not rise up forever, but sometimes even if u dont get a chance to get out of the pit, I would say, create a chance yourself and do it. As silly as might sound, renaissance is really a choice we make. It is not something that we have to wait for it to happen by itself. Life's experiences lead us to yearn for it a lot of times. At the end of the day, all that we want is to be happy. Lets learn to be a phoenix.. :)