Am I who I am or where I belong?

One wonders why this craving, longing, for identification exists. One can understand the identification with one’s physical needs – the necessary things, clothes, food, shelter and so on. But inwardly, inside the skin as it were, we try to identify ourselves with the past, with tradition, with some fanciful romantic image, a symbol much cherished. And surely in this identification there is a sense of security, safety, a sense of being owned and of possessing. This gives great comfort. One takes comfort, security, in any form of illusion. And man apparently needs many illusions. In the distance there is the hoot of an owl and there is a deep-throated reply from the other side of the valley. It is still dawn. The noise of the day has not begun and everything is quiet. There is something strange and holy where the sun arises. There is a prayer, a chant to the dawn, to that strange quiet light. That early morning, the light was subdued, there was no breeze and all the vegetation, the trees, the bushes, were quiet, still, waiting. Waiting for the sun to arise. And perhaps the sun would not come up for another half hour or so, and the dawn was slowly covering the earth with a strange stillness. Gradually, slowly, the topmost mountain was getting brighter and the sun was touching it, golden, clear, and the snow was pure, untouched by the light of day. As you climbed, leaving the little village paths down below, the noise of the earth, the crickets, the quails and other birds began their morning song, their chant, their rich worship of the day. And as the sun arose you were part of that light and had left behind everything that thought had put together. You completely forgot yourself. The psyche was empty of its struggles and its pains. And as you walked, climbed, there was no sense of separateness, no sense of being even a human being.

– Krishnamurti to Himself Ojai California Tuesday 10th March, 1983

It’s easy to confuse having a strong sense of self to the comfort of a well-established social identity. Personally, I have been grappling with this dilemma in my head. It began with reading some scientific research-based book on what it takes to succeed at dating and get into a relationship. This is something that has been on my mind a lot as my family begins to pressure me to take my personal life more seriously, and some of my best friends sign up for holy matrimony, even while others are in long-term, stable relationships.

Turns out that in the early days of courtship, once you identify your prey (that’s the language these books use :/ ), you need to showcase what you bring to the table. No sooner that I count my virtues (which include loyalty, friendliness, independence), another article tells me that there is no reason to think that these are flaunt-worthy. Apparently, this is doing the bare minimum, and any attempt at making them out to be more than that, is simply going to seem unattractive and entitled.

I’m caught between a rock and a hard place here. So, I start to wonder if my social identity is worth anything – but thanks to my peripatetic childhood, that extended a little into adulthood as well, and my parents relatively unconventional choices of lifestyle and community, I have always felt like an outsider. I have embraced it thus far, because it has given me a unique perspective into things, but apparently, when it comes to dating, people seek out the familiar.

I’m really lost here, as you can see. I think of public figures like Oprah and Obama who have struggled with their own sense of identity, carving something out for themselves, and I wonder how I am going to figure this one out in the coming months… Or if it is worth figuring out at all?

 

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What a great time to be single!

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I’m sure there are people out there who love the dating game, and enjoy going around getting to know people, and letting it simmer until it dies out (or otherwise – in which case, it’s a whole other story), but I’m not one of those people. At all. I’ve been oh-so-very happily single all my life, and my expectations of finding love has been almost fairytale-like. One day, I will have lost my Crocs, and someone will return it to me knowing that I’m one of the few girls who buy their designs- and I don’t mean just their clogs and mules.

Then again, as with most human beings, I have an inner conflict that arises from needing to be logical. Logically speaking, if I meet new people at the rate that I am meeting new people, and go about friend-zoning or professional-acquaintancing them as I tend to, I’m gonna have to fan-base the rest of mankind. Who am I to build my empire alongside then? Oh my god, who let the histrionics out!

Jokes apart. This entire pursuit, understood in its present framework, drains me. It doesn’t interest me at all, and turns me off. I prefer being a head person. I totally tried being a heart person for the longest time, and it led me back to my head- you’re intelligent enough, it told me. And so here I am, re-wiring my brain, re-learning social cues, and navigating through all of this. I am learning to not lay too much emphasis on the slightest gestures even if they catch my attention, because they might not necessarily mean much to the other person. Reading too much into it, is inviting oneself to run in circles. Symbols are open to interpretation, and if interest is as simple as swiping right, then it doesn’t amount to much does it?

That’s right, interest doesn’t mean much. If someone returned your shoe to you, it means they returned your shoe to you. It doesn’t mean they knew what your shoe meant to you. It doesn’t mean they are willing to listen to the story behind how and why you bought it. And with that, welcome to the world of choices, where you can show interest without backing it up with the willingness or ability to invest. There are all these websites and portals and apps, and matchmakers  and dating coaches – I wonder if anybody finds anything close to magic at all. Then again, I always tell myself that magic is probably just the result of a carefully-constructed algorithm, so.

Am I coming across as too skeptical? I’m just tryna keep my head in the game, without getting over-invested, yeah?

 

Date a girl who reads philosophy.

I was 18, and I knew a guy who seemed interested in me; he was 21 or 22. Back then, he used to text me quite often. During one such conversation, I told him that I was considering studying philosophy after college. He was curious, as was everybody, about why I would choose to study philosophy after economics. I told him that any inquiry into political, social, or economic systems- systems that consisted of human interaction, needed to be approached with much forethought and a certain sort of discipline in this thinking. Philosophy would help me appreciate that, before I jumped into opinion-forming and decision-making. He thought philosophy was redundant. He said that if I spoke to a peasant farmer about philosophy, it wouldn’t make too much sense to him. There is no philosophy to people’s mundane lives; philosophy is a creation of the well-provided, gentility-bred, high-brow-esque mind.

Perhaps. Perhaps I did not understand what he fully meant. However, it seemed pessimistic to me. It seemed like an inability to believe in a magical life, where certain events were bound to happen and some things were meant to be- an approach to life that I readily subscribe to, and use to soothe myself after exposure to harsh realities of life, such as the consequence of rash decisions, and long-winding reactions to impulsive actions. The necessity of delayed gratification. The tendency of karmic energies to be subtle and mysterious in their working. Life is hard, but there is meaning awaiting those who persevere to overcome them. Right?- I asked him.

‘Are you an optimist?’ he asked, in return.

‘Yes, very much!’

‘Ah. Then I was wrong.’ he ventured.

‘Wrong about?’ I wondered.

‘Wrong about how intelligent I thought you were. Intelligent people cannot be optimists.’

This conversation is etched in my mind; partially because my younger self felt invalidated by the possibility of being labelled ‘not intelligent’. But, I’ve been a sucker for philosophy. It has shaped my thought processes, enabled whatever empathy I have, and helped me relate to a world beyond my mind. If the success and popularity of platforms like brainpickings and spirit science are anything to go by, then there clearly is a world out there that is hungry for meaning, a message that says that we are not alone as individuals in our complexity of thought and emotional build-up that leads to irrational anxiety, fear, frustration, and magical thought- the last of which is simply an extreme expression of our meaning-seeking, narrative-biased mind.

If you are wondering about where things went with the guy, the answer is nowhere. We were clearly bad fits, seeing how we lacked respect for each other’s minds, and therefore disallowed ourselves from giving the other the benefit of doubt. But the point of this post is to write a manifesto about dating a girl who reads philosophy, which is an extension of the ‘Date a girl who reads‘ manifesto.

Date a girl who reads philosophy. It means she is, in all probability, mulling over perspectives and the nature of reality itself. HOWEVER, she is given to strong opinions, and plenty of heated debates. She is melancholic and guarded, but feisty and won’t mince her words when you diss her favourite philosopher as not being a ‘real philosopher’ after all. Date a girl who reads philosophy because she is prone to retract, and will give you opportunity to retract. She will let you apologize, and allow it to do the trick. She will accommodate you your magical thoughts, but will pull you back to existential reality when you’re telling yourself that looking up at the clock at exactly 11:11 means something, because she’s been there herself and seen herself through and out of that phase. She’ll contemplate life- its purpose and meaning, and drag you down to the dark recesses of her mind to talk about death and will make you consider the humanness of inhumane tendencies. She will gaze at the stars with you, and her eyes will speak for the beauty she recognizes. Date a girl who reads philosophy, because she is likely to have a rich inner life, with her own personal mysteries and complex demons, fighting for expression and redressal, and therefore, always providing fodder for conversation. Date a girl who reads philosophy, because she will strive to understand, not just your mind, but your soul.

Date a girl who reads philosophy, especially when she only claims to try to do so. 😉

Not All Marketing Advice was created equal.

The problem with so much of the quickie marketing advice doing the rounds on the internet is that it is marketed as generic, one-size-fits-all nuggets of info. It’s shipped in classrooms, videos, conferences, and in one-on-ones. So many of the people who are, mentally and spiritually, in the same boat as I am aren’t working in the marketing department for huge conglomerates with a history spanning over a century or more, but starting up shop from scratch. To us kind, the 4Ps and Qs don’t make practical sense. Here’s probably why.
 

Microsoft’s been in the news for all kinds of overhaul lately. In the spirit of its prevailing image, it is a sign of communicating reassurance to the consumer base when a video like this is made. In the video, Natasha speaks of efforts toward understanding the customer’s decision-making process better. She highlights the phase of evaluation and product research as the most important part of the ‘considered purchase’ process.

I am going to take the liberty of using an analogy here – that of comparing the purchase of a product to dating. When a girl gets asked out, she probably agrees to the first date because she genuinely likes the guy. This is akin to landing the potential customer’s ‘to-research’ list. If the girl’s pretty, vivacious, and can hold her own, then the guy isn’t going to take any chances but to be on his best behaviour, and the girl does not expect any less. Being on one’s best behaviour on the first date is a hygiene issue, as are the ‘tech specs’. Sure, the gadget’s got great memory, and is available in different colours, but I live in a metropolitan, and there are plenty of eligible bachelors hawking the same biodata. If you have got any game to take it further and clinch a long-term relationship, then you can’t just BE a great catch, but also BE SEEN as one.

Now unless she is an extremely strong-minded individualist, in which case you have just got to be yourself and pray, much like how she isn’t going to need advertisements to walk into a shop wherein billing will take longer than her ‘purchase’ per se, the girl’s going to ask her best friend for an opinion. Keep in mind that the best friend’s not the one with butterflies in her stomach, and doesn’t have your ruggedly-handsome face etched in her thoughts to be distracted from hard facts. Besides, it is her life’s goal to talk your love interest out of the relationship if she spots even the first of red flags. In short, this is probably the geek who won’t buy your product, but doles out advice that is much sought after. Floor him! When in doubt, refer to the Taylor Swift song where she likes the guy even more because he manages to smooth-talk her dad, and get her friends drooling. Essentially, this also saves her the effort of convincing them that he’s a great catch by doing it himself.

In economics, we speak of such a phenomenon as Duesenberry’s relative income hypothesis. You aren’t doing too bad in life if you have a cozy bachelor’s pad in ‘town’ (as opposed to the suburbs), unless your neighbours are a row of sprawling farmhouses. Therefore, when you get sized-up, it is against a pre-determined benchmark. To land the first date, you may be the knight in the shining armour, but to continue in the relationship, there had better be substance on the inside as well. More importantly, it had better be vouched by the best friend.

But hang on: are you the new guy in town? Nobody knows much about where you came from, and where you went to school before. You have been shy, and simply showing up in all the classes at school, much like how tech-startups do the rounds at conferences and exhibitions. You can’t possibly be impressing the best friend when you are going for your main squeeze, because your intentions are going to be in question then. Instead, if you want to get your social life rolling, you have gotta pick a girl who is typically- a) willing to take risks, b) be outspoken while defending the underdog. If you are the new kid in school and want instant results (and you don’t really have much time because your VC is shoving prom down your throat in the very near future), then the strong-minded individualist chick ought to be your sole customer base. Seth Godin explained targeting the early-adopters when he discussed sliced bread (and I am not going up against that and pretending like it was my idea first). Basically, it means you need to bed a special kind of geek, even if it means doling out a freebie at a Coding marathon.

So, in essence, before you get your hands dirty on the field, you had better spend some time in self-introspection while attempting your homework. Good luck spreading the word!