Another example of “the best camera is the one in your hand”. Taken from my Sony Ericsson phone.
Monthly Archives: March 2013
To continue with my (self-congratulatory at best and vain at worst) series of Coursera essays, here is the 340-word essay on H.G.Wells I wrote for my free online ‘Fantasy and Science Fiction’ course.
One of the major elements of science-fiction literature is to attempt to predict or speculate about possible future events which might come to pass if mankind traverses a certain scientific and moral path. Wells, however, forces us to stop on the way and consider the journey itself—what happens when we presume to being enlightened, as the masses in ‘The Star’, but in fact, are as blind as the people of ‘The Country of the Blind’.
“Common-sense was sturdy everywhere” , Wells writes sarcastically. In the face of catastrophe, nine out of ten men on earth are “scornful, jesting, […] inclined to persecute the obdurate fearful” . He even equates common-sense to “barbarism and savagery”; the men, with “unalterable convictions”, scorn the respectable mathematician and go about their businesses unheeding the star. Similarly, the blind men mock Nunez and steadfastly stick to their beliefs—”it was an article of faith with them” . So much so that in order to cure Nunez of what they think are delusions, they decide to surgically remove his eyes and thus make him “perfectly sane” . “Thank Heaven for science”, Yacob says , and again Wells hints at the dangers of vainglory.
In both the stories, Wells warns us against intolerance and self-aggrandizement. Science enlightens mankind so that at any point in time we know more than we did in the past, but we should also realize that knowledge is illimitable, that there are many things we haven’t yet discovered. Just as the blind men lived in a world of their own making and limitations, so can we live either in a blind valley of a world or choose to open our eyes to truth and wisdom. Like the mathematician, we can hold “all the universe […] in the grip of this small brain” , the only requirements are acceptance and humility. Otherwise, one day someone will truthfully say that “Man has lived in vain.” 
 The Star, by H.G Wells
 The Country of the Blind, by H.G. Wells
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I’ve lost count of the things that have been labelled ‘overrated’ in recent times. Sleep is overrated, life is overrated, blogging, taste, friendship are overrated. So now I’m officially sick and tired of the system of overrating.
Of course sleeping is not ‘overrated’ (which means ‘not worth it’ or ‘ given more importance than it deserves’); ask an insomniac if you think otherwise. Life is not overrated, and if you think it is, it means you are emotionally imbalanced and should take steps to get over your current life situation. In fact, I’ll oppose everyone who calls anything overrated; it’s such a pessimistic attitude! I believe every emotion, relationship, experience, and thing, is worthwhile. It might have a different level of importance for different people, but by itself, it is probably more underrated than the other.
Have people lost interest and faith in everything that is good; in themselves, the world? That they coolly demean everything from energy bars to existence? Or is this phrase just a mindless, meaningless fad, and will fade with passing seasons?
I fervently hope it’s the latter; because even if it implies that the masses are prone to mob behaviour, at least it also promises that sanity will return in future generations.
When we are newly born, the world revolves around us. Everything we do is a wonder to those around us, as though we’re God’s own miracle. Although now that I see it on my computer screen, I realize that we actually are. Nonetheless, read on.
Even as we grow up we think there is nothing more important than our own joys and troubles and loves and hates. Every experience is exaggerated, because our experiences are all that matter; at least that’s what we believe.
But then we grow up even more. We meet more people, and connect with many more through blogs and websites and social networking places. And as our study set increases, so to speak, we realize that we are, infact, more average than we believe ourselves to be. You think your neighbour is the weirdest person ever because she starts every conversation with detailed descriptions of her current ailments, but then you find out most neighbours, and all landladies, have exactly the same habit. You think you’re unique in your habit of reading the last few pages of a mystery novel first, then you find out that the roommate of your project partner does exactly the same thing.
I noticed this because of Sherlock. I used to think he has an overflowing repertoire of things-ordinary-dogs-don’t-do; e.g. his habit of rubbing against my legs and between my legs (like cats are wont to) when I get back home was strange to me til I interacted with my neighbour’s Boxer and found out it’s a common trait. So many little (I want to say cute but probably shouldn’t) things dogs do are sort of ingrained into their genetic material. I haven’t trained Sherlock to be a guard dog, but he still goes on intruder-alert mode when he feels necessary. I’ve trained him to ‘shake’ when he wants something, but he still ‘begs’! Made me wonder if it’s a collective-consciousness thing. Then it made me wonder if it’s the same with humans. And I found out it is, more than I thought it would be.
Characteristics we think are exceptional become average when we add in more figures. (I suppose that is a statistics law or something, but it never feels nice when you are the statistic yourself)
So is there no such thing as a truly exceptional individual? I look at history, and find that of course, there are. I think it’s the combination of all their individual, mostly average, traits that makes people exceptional.