Productivity Porn

The clock ticked to five past three. Civilization was asleep, covered in the blanket of night. “And that’s one more task off the list,” he whispered as he cleared week-old emails, lying in his bed. The GTD gods smiled down at him – Inbox Zero was finally within sight.

His 7-day social media detox was nearing its end, and he couldn’t wait to tell the world all about it. There was also the new issue of his Substack newsletter waiting to be published.

“7 Things I Discovered From My 7 Day Social Media Detox”

The title was ready. It had the right amount of irony to poke fun at culture’s obsession with the listicle but sincere enough that his subscribers would still click through.

But that would have to wait. The sun would begin its upward climb in a few hours and then the day would be his to seize. He had spent an hour last night calendar blocking, after all.

A restful nap followed. Soon, the clock neared 7. His morning routine started off with 20 minutes of guided meditation on his favourite app. His daily motivational tweetstorm was ready by the time he’d weighed the coffee grounds that he would drop into his Chemex. The coffee bloomed when he added the precisely measured amount of hot water. Watching the carbon dioxide leave the coffee grounds, he thought about how tired he was. But that was the cost of productivity. Sleep was a waste of time – he’d rather spent that time jotting things down in his trusty Bullet Journal or the custom daily-use organizational system he’d crafted in Notion.

The tiredness abated after his coffee. It was time to get to work. He put on his favourite podcast that promised to sate his curiosity through deep, one-on-one conversations with thought leaders and exclusive guests of the intellectual kind. Playback was fixed at 1.5x speed, so he could absorb and retain more information in less time. The podcast did offer actionable pieces of wisdom and practical knowledge, and he wanted to get to those as soon as he could. His eyes focused on the laptop in front of him. It was time to achieve flow state and work on what mattered. If there was one thing he’d retained from all the productivity videos he’d binge-watched on YouTube, it was that flow state was essential to deep work. And wasn’t the quantity of work produced all that mattered?

His state of intense concentration was disrupted when the smart band on his wrist buzzed. He had been inactive for too long, it reminded him. Time to get some movement in – sitting around too long was dangerous.

And that’s where we are right now.

There are dozens – if not hundreds – of creators sweating over every detail of their life. They try to perfect their daily routines. They are driven to extract efficiency, to maximize their outputs to ungodly levels. It is incredible how easy it is to be swept into the rabbit hole of ✨p r o d u c t i v i t y✨. And watching these creators talk for hours on end about their perfect system for note-taking/organization/task-management/planning/time-scheduling, you are certain to end up thinking such a system could work for you. You start to feel like that one particular productivity app that was recommended by them could help you get on top of things.

I’m guilty of a lot of these things myself. I haven’t gone so far as to be a grouchy hipster who brews his own coffee in a Chemex, but I have tried out several ‘systems’ that promised massive returns after the initial setup. Suffice it to say, I never really got any returns since I never did the setup. There’s a lesson in there about how these systems have such a steep learning curve that a user would abandon it during the setup phase.

It feels wrong labeling productivity tools and systems as fads. They have been part of the conversation around productivity for a long time now and will stay that way for the foreseeable future. Apparently there are people who find value from these tools and systems – though I am inclined to feel everyone is lying about it and no one actually derives any value or joy from any of this. It’s all a charade. But I digress. Some of the fads I’ve tried include

  • guided mindfulness meditation apps
  • crafting a second brain with Evernote
  • Getting Things Done (GTD) with Todoist
  • the Kanban style of task management and planning with Trello
  • time tracking with Toggl
  • habit tracking with Habitica
  • multiple attempts at physical Bullet Journals
  • failed attempts at creating the ultimate productivity and organization system with Notion
  • consuming media to boost my knowledge and awareness – examples include talk-show style podcasts and blogs like Farnam Street.

At the moment, I use none of these systems – either the return on investment was simply too low, or I didn’t invest enough time in set up and customization. The greatest lie of productivity YouTubers is that you can be productive with the methods and tools shown. The truth is you only feel motivated when watching the video, not when you have to act on the advice received.

This lofty, intangible and poorly defined end goal of ✨p r o d u c t i v i t y✨ is a rabbit hole with no escape. You become so engaged in the pursuit of optimizing every single facet of your life and work that everything else fades. The actual work you do has no more value – all you care about is migrating to the flashy new system or tool everyone’s harping about. Productivity becomes less of work output quality and quantity, and more about integrating different apps and methods into your life. It is a never-ending game of trying out the shiny new things. The actual act of working and being productive plays second fiddle to the dopamine hit of watching these well-crafted videos about being productive.

Much like the note-taking gurus who lack an actual context of use when writing about note-taking, creators focusing on productivity lack serious perspective on the use case of these tools/methods/systems. They talk only about the tool, not how it might be used by someone in the real world. Watching videos on productivity, improved reading retention, note taking and being an overall better person is akin to watching porn – it feels very good when you watch it, but you slowly realize the real world is different from what is shown. Productivity is an ill-defined metric and we are conditioned to chase it as a badge of honor.

Or maybe it’s all in my head and none of what I’ve written above is true.

Lunch Break

After what felt like an eternity, Gary Nicholson checked his watch. He was sure it was nearing his mid-day break. He had been clamoring away at his desk since he signed in at 9 AM, and he was positive it had been a productive morning. He was preparing for his lunch break where he could take some well-deserved time-off.

But an eternity had not passed – Gary’s watch showed 10:15. He knew time passed slowly once he signed in for the day, but a man can hope. Gary’s shoulders slumped as the realization that he was in for another long day set in. He turned back to his monitor and began typing away. The weekly report he was responsible for soon began taking shape on the screen.

Happy with how the report had turned out, Gary turned his attention to a different report he was tasked with. This one, however, would have to be crafted by himself and not from a pre-existing template. He opened up a new document and prepared a simple outline in his mind.

It all started with the cursor, its metronomic blinking reminded him of every second that was slipping away from him. There was no peace to be found in its periodic blinking – every occurrence of the blink took him one step closer to the end. Deadlines would come and go, empires would rise and fall, but the cursor would blink, unaware and apathetic of what happens on the other end of the screen.

A blinking cursor would never have attracted his attention before. The blink represented precision – every blink evenly spaced in time. The cursor was symbolic of an eager assistant ready to record every thought for posterity. Right now though, the blink represented not the warm gaze of an empty canvas waiting. It represented the cold stare of a malevolent entity, watching him like a predator, counting down the seconds until he engaged in fight or flight.

And then, as suddenly as it had emerged, the dark shadow lifted off the cursor. Gary snapped out of the trance, his attention retracting into him once again. Gone was any semblance of symbolism in the cursor. In its place was a simple cursor, blinking in digital precision, awaiting his inputs.

It took some effort but Gary was able to peel his eyes off the screen. He glanced at his wristwatch. It read 1:30. A wave of confusion washed over Gary, and he double-checked the time. He poked his head over his cubicle – most of the other cubicles were empty, their occupants away for lunch. Gary was confused, but happy. He could have his lunch now.

He got up from his chair, locked his computer and turned off the screen. This wasn’t so bad after all. It was finally time. Time for his lunch break.

The One Real Moment

I got mugged last night.

It had been three months since I’d started working the late-night shifts at a supermarket. The pay was shitty and the hours long, but at least I was never alone in my apartment. But it also meant I could never complete my assignments on time.

It rained most nights, but I never got caught up because of it. You see, I’d work till closing time and by then the rains would have subsided. It was then that I would walk back home. Every single part of the city was quiet by then. Occasionally I could hear a faraway patrol car, its sirens wailing, but nothing could break the city’s deep slumber.

Once I reached home, I would quickly microwave a bowl of instant noodles. This I downed with Royal Emblem. It was shitty whisky, but it was cheap. I lived paycheck to paycheck, so a nice bottle of whisky was out of the picture. Also, I was developing a drinking habit and getting accustomed to the good stuff would leave me broke. Once this was done, it was pretty easy to fall asleep. I’d be tired enough to sleep right as my head hit the pillow. But some nights were different. Some nights, the tidal wave of repressed memories would flow in and sleep would simply be a vestigial concept in my mind. Then, it was back to the daily grind.

This was my cycle. Every single day. Rinse, dry, repeat.

I’d just crossed the intersection at 45th and Mayde, when it started to drizzle. Fuck! I was about six blocks from my apartment. I had bags in both hands, which meant I couldn’t make a run for it. It looked like I had to brave the downpour and get home. The rain was never the problem, it was the cold wind blowing about that cut deep into your skin like so many little razors. In only a couple of minutes, the drizzle had grown stronger and I was still nowhere close to getting home.

That was when it happened. The mugging. An arm wrapped around my neck like a snake. Hard knuckles dug into me, right below the ribs. It knocked the wind out of me.

When the world resumed its pace in the mornings, I’d be busy catching up with it. Given how tired I was every day, I always woke up late, trying my best not to trip and fall as I got ready for college. After a 30 minute commute that felt like an eternity, I would reach my college, always a hair’s width away from being late. Hour after hour, lecturers would pour in and impart knowledge unto us or pound it into us, while I tried my best to keep my mind focused. This was it, every single day. The entirety of my life amounted to nothing more than being in class for eight hours a day, slaving around the supermarket and having a late dinner before bed.

Before I could get the air back in, a strong leg struck my calf sideways. I felt the sidewalk kiss my face and pleasure was not what I felt. A knee burst into my back and I was cemented between the wet concrete sidewalk and the burly knee. I had just managed to turn my neck and peek a glance at my assailant when a blow landed square on my face.

The weekends for most people is merely a means of escape from the mundane routines of everyday life. For me, the weekends were nearly indistinguishable from the weekdays. I’d be off working double shifts for the extra cash, or I’d sit alone in my room, crying myself to sleep over how I had fucked my life up, or both. Weekends came and went in waves and every one of them seemed to slip away faster than ever before. Maybe I had finally settled into a rut, or maybe this was how life was after the initial high of being alive had worn out?

The pain was now cruising through my face and I couldn’t bear the suspense any longer. I tried to get up, but the weight of my mystery attacker held me pinned to the ground. “Get your wallet out! I don’t need no trouble man, give me your fucking wallet,” he demanded. I tried to reply, but all I could do was mumble. My breath hung low on the cold, wet concrete sidewalk and I couldn’t help but laugh at how mediocre my end would be.

I was livid. I was angry at myself for having landed in this situation. I was scared. But more than anything, I was joyful. I was enjoying every moment of this. This was the most excitement I had had in three months. I felt truly alive. I wanted him to finish me off then, I did not wish to exist a second longer than I had to. This was it.

He tugged on my shirt and pulled me up to my feet, his powerful arms still locking me in place. “I said give me your wallet, scumbag! I ain’t gonna ask twice,” he bellowed. I fumbled around and managed to get my wallet out. I threw it in the air and took my chance to run.

That’s when my face hit the ground again.

I wasn’t the type of person to go out and have ‘fun’. This was because I never had any friends to begin with. I guess I’m the kind of person people are repulsed by. The only friend I had was my bottle of Royal Emblem. I’ve known it for quite a long time and it’s always hanging around by my house. It is reliable — guaranteed to knock me out every single time. And it’s always there for me when I need it. Humans aren’t reliable, so I don’t have any “human friends”.

I tripped on my bag and fell with a thud that reverberated across every bone in my being. He caught up to me and pulled me up by the collar. Another punch to my face and stomach sent me reeling backwards. A direct kick to my shin, then a punch that impacted my chin. I felt hot blood trickle down my neck as it mixed with the cold drops of the midnight rain.

I was already on the ground, getting punched left and right on my temple and forehead. They teach you a lot of things in self-defense classes, but what they don’t teach you is how to recollect all the things you learnt. So maybe it was out of pure instinct that I held up my hands in front of my face. But that didn’t stop him dishing out blow after blow.

It was quite some time later that the barrage of kicks and punches slowed down. I stood there like the hapless victim I was. The rush of adrenaline replaced terror with a rush of euphoria. This was good. This was my ticket out of my miserable routine of an existence.

On the nights that I had trouble sleeping, I’d greet the rising sun with bags under my eyes. I would watch the city slowly crawl back out of its sleep and be abuzz with activity.

I watched the night fade away as I lay there on the sidewalk in the pouring rain. The cold wind blew and I was acquainted with all the bruises on my body. It would be daybreak in a couple of hours and the first signs of life in the city would appear. Soon after daybreak, I got up and made my way home. Sure, I had no self-respect but even I didn’t want the early-bird breakfast crowd to see me. I took a quick shower and watched the blood swirl with the water and flow down the drain.

Almost every single day, my showers were a rushed affair. Trying to make it to classes on time left no time for introspection during showers. Today, I took my sweet time rinsing off the remains of the previous night. The hot water hurt as much as it soothed the sore muscles on my body.

I spent the rest of the day wrapped up in bed, trying to make sense of what had happened. I was mugged and I lost my money. I was attacked and I lost my dignity. But in that loss, I discovered something truly unique.

I stepped out of my apartment that night and made my way across the busy street intersections. I even crossed 45th and Mayde; my bags and the items within were still lying on the sidewalk, silent witnesses to the brutality that had ensued only a few hours prior. But that wasn’t my destination.

I got into a bar and sat up on the high stool. “What will it be?” demanded the bartender. “The most expensive whiskey you’ve got, straight up.” A moment later, I added, “Actually, I’ll have two of those.”

I don’t know if it is the rush from what happened, or the influx of alcohol, but last night, I discovered something truly unique. I discovered the one real moment when I was alive.

The Mere Futility Of It All

The Mere Futility Of It All

More often than not, I tend to give up on tasks to be done, or on public resolutions I make when I’m not in my right mind. It is now almost a year to the day when I said to myself, “Hey, I should participate in this Postaweek challenge! It sounds easy enough – publish one post, every week, for 52 weeks in 2018.” Never mind how easy it is to be tempted into not doing that, or how busy I was at certain points throughout the year. Never mind the occasional 5-month gap between posts.

Creating a writing habit/ritual is something I’ve ‘advised’ people to do, both in real life and on this blog, more times than I can keep track of. What does it say about me when I myself do not have the habit set up? I started 2018 with high hopes. I was sold on the concept of Postaweek. I had a Trello board filled with ideas and possible topics for writing on. I even had a widget declaring I was a ‘Postaweek blogger’. And I failed. No surprise there. It’s too hard to write and it’s too easy to give up and do something else.

A lot of things happened in 2018. Some good, some bad. You know, the usual mixed bag. But the worst thing about 2018 was just how out of it I was. Most days, I did not have the strength to do anything. I never had the strength to do anything. I could not read, I could not write, I was barely functioning most of the time. There were days when I could not get myself out of the bed in the morning because I was angry at my lungs for not having given up in the middle of the night. Every single day was bleak and there was not a day when I wasn’t reminded of how useless everything I am doing is. Time never passed, but I also felt like whatever time I had left was quickly slipping away between my fingers, and I had so much left to do. It wasn’t a reluctance to do any of this or suicidal tendencies, but a kind of indifference to everything. The mere futility of my actions was a weight that was too much to bear at times. Why should I care enough to read or write or do any of the dozens of things I have to do when none of this matters?

I could say I was depressed, or going through a real existential crisis, or having a mental breakdown, but I am not qualified so I won’t diagnose myself. I think the real ‘culprit’ is a lack of meaning in my life. There is no grand path set that I have to follow, no grand plan that I have to live by. My life is as random as the Universe will allow it to be, and I crave a semblance of order and meaning in it. My mind is simultaneously paralysed by the smallness of my life in relation to the Universe, how my own life has no future and how I won’t have a planet to live in, in 20 years.

All this is quite depressing, even for me, so let’s move on to something else that grinds my gears equally well: resolutions. Specifically, my failed attempts at resolutions. Like most of the general population, I cannot stick to resolutions for more than two weeks. Knowing this, I tend to temper my often lofty goals. In 2018, though, I had just one goal: write more than I did in 2017, get more views on my posts than I did in 2017. But I’m so used to failing at resolutions that I’m laughing at myself right now for having zero self-awareness.

We live in a wild world in that we are often faced with conflicting advice online. There are people who tell you not to share your goals with others. There are people who advocate sharing your goals and progress as a way to keep you accountable. I’ve tried both methods and failed. Spectacularly. Neither method seems to be working for me, so here’s what I’ll be doing for 2019. I’ll do “stuff”. If it sticks, you’ll get to hear about it, if it doesn’t you won’t. I know I’ll do the things that really matter, so I feel this isn’t an escape of any sorts.

Reading the draft for this post, I realized I’d been rambling on from topic to topic, without making any sense. I also noticed what seemed to be an irregularly high number of italicised words. My first thought was to include a footnote apologizing for them, but I won’t. This post isn’t me apologizing for being absent and not posting. This post isn’t me explaining what happened. This post just is. The world is in a grim, dark place right now and there are more pressing matters to attend to than a few overused italics. Here’s to a “better” 2019.


Purple streaks of sunlight fill the evening sky. You step out of your cozy house for a quick stroll after which you will have a silent dinner under the stars that you barely notice. The air is fragrant and light. So light that your breaths carry them away, beyond the horizon, never to return again. Your worries and anxieties still run about in your mind, though you cover them up under a fake smile. Lumps still form in your throat and your heart aches everytime they decide to run amok in your mind. But you wish them away, not wanting to ruin what is otherwise a beautiful evening.
You walk along the streets and can’t help but notice the orange hue on the river, glistening under the last rays of the sun. The river had always been a special place for you. It brought back memories of good times and left you feeling stronger. It was one of those places you wished you could bottle up and enjoy later.

You glide down the streets and notice me sitting on a perk bench. You think I’m happy though you know I’ve always felt tour guides were the happiest people around. Street lights flicker and turn on.

You walk without a clear destination, the promise of a magical place luring you in deeper. For the first time in months you look up at the sky and see the millions of stars that have been waiting for your attention, light years away, yet twinkling as if they were within your grasp. You let your mind wander, free from the heavy thoughts that have been weighing you down for so long.

You hear crickets chirping as the last rays of the sun penetrate the canopy of the forest on a hill outside town, that you’ve always wanted to visit. You see squirrels running around having their final drink of the day, before they drift into the vastness of sleep. Who knows what they might dream about. The air is laden with the smell of flowers far-away. The frangrance is a bit tangy but sweet, you can almost taste it. Stones crunch like potato chips under your feet as you near a hill. It seems the promise of a magical place has been fulfilled, but you probe deeper. Everything in this dark place radiates a certain joy and feels magical, yet natural. You can’t help but wonder if this is a dream, and everything in front of you is but a figment of your dormant imagination.

Old dreams are rediscovered as you watch birds drift smoothly into their nests and settling down for the night. Today’s worries and failures are all forgotten. What still remains is the promise of a brighter tomorrow.

The hill is steeper now. The physical exertions bring you back to reality. You turn around and your eyes widen in amazement. The city is bathed in a million points of light, illuminating the place you call home. You realize you’re pretty far away; the city is below you in a valley. Its very dark now and you are amazed you made it this far, yet you carry on.

Deep in the forest is a clearing, which tonight is filled with moonlight. You walk into the clearing and see the nectar, pouring from heaven to this world of us mortals. The crickets chirp in chorus and there is nothing you can do, but enjoy this spectacular scene, devour it with your eyes and engrave it on your mind. Everything is perfect.

You open your eyes but they are immediately blinded. Your face feels warm. And wet. As your eyes adjust to the light, you feel a wave crash into you. You wake up beside the ocean, still in a daze. You never left.


An Update On The Cringe Repository

After what seems like an eternity, I thought a bit of re-branding was in order. The URL could definitely use a bit of personalisation, especially since the old one wasn’t doing any wonders. I am worried about link-rot, but I’ll leave that mess to Google to figure out. Or maybe not. If the whole Cambridge Analytica scandal has taught me one thing, it’s that maybe putting all your thoughts online isn’t such a great idea.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to publish a new post soon, at least next week. So here’s to that, and the new blog address.

Why Don’t You… Or How To Ignore The Voices In Your Head

It’s amazing what the voices in your head can tell you. Just this week, they have been nagging me like that not-so-favourite aunt who pesters you to get married and sets you up on blind dates. Sure, I’ve been ignoring them – the voices – like everything else in my life, but I thought the whole experience was interesting in its own right.

Much like the ‘bite me in the ass’ tag and my salon experiences, the posts I write about not being able to write, seem poised to be a regular feature, in as much as it shows how repetitive and mundane my life is. Continue reading “Why Don’t You… Or How To Ignore The Voices In Your Head”

Damned If You, Damned If You Don’t

What is the vilest thing you could possibly do to belittle someone’s achievement? One way of doing it might be to claim the achievement – or part of it – as your own. Or if you want to get technical about it and I do, you could snatch the achievement and make it the collective achievement of a billion people – many of whom you’ve never even met. And that’s precisely something that Indians do.

Before certain communityal activists label me a Pakistani anti-national, hear me out. Anytime an Indian gains international attention or achieves something momentous, every other Indian makes a mad dash to remind everyone else about the nationality of the person. Within minutes, you’ll find memes floating around with titles like “Proud to be an Indian! Every Indian must share” or “Share if you are Indian!” or “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet! Share!”. You get the gist.

Sundar Pichai was made CEO of Google in 2015 and to this day, I find “motivational” images of him with text about how an Indian is now the boss of Google, and how we as Indians must be proud of this spectacular achievement. I would like to quickly point out that Pichai still does have a boss above him – if Pichai runs the largest company in the world, Larry Page runs the company that owns the largest company in the world.

Indians making off with the achievements of others like….

To be frank, I am not making light of Sundar Pichai’s achievements in any way. But at the same time, I do not feel that I have to be proud of his achievements simply because we were born in the same country. I do not feel the need to trumpet it or act like I played a part – however small – in him accomplishing it. Where he is now is solely his achievement and claiming a part of it in the name of ‘national honour’ and ‘pride’ is a cheap move against him.

Sunita Williams – who has found a place for herself among the stars with her accomplishments – is also frequently lauded by Indians. Somehow an American citizen born to Indian and Slovenian parents setting a record for most spacewalk time is cause for huge celebration here! I can understand feeling happy for someone who has done something great with their life. I can understand sending out congratulatory messages for them. What I cannot understand is why Indians feel the need to bring in the nationality of the person. It’s as if the person being Indian is proof that India is regaining its long-lost glory.

I can understand if you’re one of these people I’ve mentioned. And I’m okay with it – people are free to express their thoughts any way they see fit. I’d be really interested to know what your take on this is. But what I think this phenomenon does is highlight the hypocrisy inherent in our society.

We feel proud when an Indian does something that is globally recognised. We rob the feeling of success from the person and claim that achievement from them. We claim it as the collective achievement of a nation with a billion people. But why do we not do the same when a person fucks their life up? Why do we not go in and help that person and treat his troubles as the collective troubles of a nation with a billion people? If you argue that making bad decisions and ending up in the dumps is a matter of personal responsibility, I would call that a double standard.

Why does this ‘personal responsibility’ not apply when someone succeeds? Why are society and the media so ready to pounce in on success stories but relegate people screwing up to just another statistic in the charts? I believe that every action of a person is their own responsibility, regardless of whether they end up being successful or a failure. If you will not participate when a screw-up occurs, you damn well do not have the right to claim an achievement or revel in its warmth.

There might be some among you that argue that it is the feeling of fraternity that matters and that no one is actually taking away the accomplishment from Sundar Pichai or Sunita Williams. There might be some that argue that Sunita being of Indian origin is reason enough to celebrate her spacewalks. If that is so, why do I never see any pics of her father, Deepak Pandya, an actual Indian and a very accomplished neuroanatomist? Surely that is reason enough for you to celebrate?

Now that I’ve managed to make me look like a smug ‘intellectual’ asshole, let me wind this up. What someone achieves is entirely theirs. This can be taken as true since a lot of Indians also believe that failure is incredibly personal and not because of external factors. This goes on to highlight the hypocrisy of Indians or the fact that Indians are really good at managing cognitive dissonance. You choose.

Image via Pixabay

On Not Writing

There is a fascinating story of creation behind every product. Dozens of unrelated technological innovations coming together to create this new product that will be utilized elsewhere. It is sad, however, that we do not ascribe the same importance to the written word. Every word written, every essay penned is the result of words that came before it and of other words that did not quite make the cut.

Behind this boring post about how there is a wonderful story behind even the most mundane things, is a wonderful story. Things are almost always not how they seem. Now that I’ve got your brain going in loops, let’s move on to the fact of the matter. There is a story behind the existence of this post you’re reading right now. I’ve always been wary of responsibilities and deadlines. This is especially true this year since I’ve joined the Post A Week challenge. Mondays roll in and I’m filled with dread because I don’t even have a first draft ready.

So far, I’ve managed to whip up something in time, thus ensuring that my streak isn’t broken. This last week, I decided to sit down early and get something ready for the weekend. Now you would be forgiven for assuming that someone who shares his tips for beating writer’s block would have no trouble finding something to write about. But history has a cruel way of repeating itself, and I came up short of any ideas.

Over at Aeon, I read this essay on how the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer can help navigate a midlife crisis. This essay, combined with a well-written reddit comment on how to avoid regrets in your 40s, formed the basis for a post I had in mind.

I ended up trashing this idea because I’ve had quite enough of philosophy. I frankly don’t want to be stuck in a place where I am forever quoting philosophers and thinkers and arguing why this school of thought is better than that school of thought. Sure, philosophy is enjoyable and can lead to healthy debates, but when you eat and breathe philosophy, you lose track of your own life and thoughts. Secondly, a 20-something with no life lessons of value mouthing off about a mid-life crisis isn’t the best of things.

Fresh out of ideas, I concluded that a movie might get my creative juices flowing. I have these rare moments in my life where my near-perpetual existential crisis seems to contract. It is precisely in these moments when the masochist in me takes over. Over the weekend, I made myself watch the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Yes, you read that right, I watched all three of the prequel movies and none of the originals. Fans of Star Wars might know the pain I endured over those 7 hours, as robotic dialogues were delivered by characters I had no interest in a sterile CG scene.

The wide variety of emotions that one feels when watching the prequels is enough material to write about. I personally felt the five stages of grief flow through me, like the lava on Mustafar. Why anyone would knowingly put themselves through this traumatic experience is beyond me. Okay, I am exaggerating – the prequels aren’t that bad. I could write about just how disappointing these movies were, and how much of a masochist I am for spending an entire weekend watching these movies. But at the end of the day, I didn’t find the whole premise funny or interesting enough. Not that half-baked ideas have always been abandoned.

The last hope I had for getting some writing done was The Daily Post. They put up a prompt yesterday, which I took on as a challenge. I thought I’d write a short story, probably a mystery-thriller. What I ended up with was half a story, in the vein of Jeff VanderMeer’s ‘Annihilation’. The fact that my story seemed similar to Annihilation did not bother me; the movie comes out this month, so I figured my story would be a respectful nod to the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I gave up on the short story because I was doubtful of my ability to stick the landing – to craft an ending that was satisfactory, with the kind of weak plot that I’d developed. I think that’s just how it is – sometimes what you write isn’t up to the mark. And that’s okay.

To be honest, I consider this post to be quite an achievement of mine. Not only did I make it meta, by talking about other posts that could have taken its place, I also included a bit of irony into this post. Here I am writing about how I don’t have any ideas to write about. In this single post, I’ve written about all three of my previous ideas, something that wouldn’t be possible if I had chosen to work on one of the three.

The #postaweek task has been quite demanding of me, simply because I don’t have a routine for blogging. Churning out content every week, while also maintaining the same level of quality as before is a fine line to walk on. I can only expect the last few posts have been good enough. But that is sort of the point of this task, I guess. Getting to a place where writing is an essential part of my weekly routine, not just something I do an hour before the deadline. So here’s to hoping I have my post ready well in advance next time.

The Deep Edgelord In Me

They say hindsight is 20-20. I realized it is true when I went back and read a couple of my posts from the past couple of years. More specifically, my long-ass roundup post about nihilism and my (now defunct) multi-part series about the philosophy of death.

Reading those posts now is like reading the words of a complete stranger. Not one bit of what was written resonates strongly with me now, and I can see now just how out of touch I was, just how hard I was trying to seem ‘enlightened’ and ‘wise’ and into philosophy. This makes it yet another instance where my own actions have come back to bite me in the ass.

It is often said that nihilism and Nietzsche are spouted by wannabe, edgy, and angsty teens and who really do not grasp what nihilism is. Rightfully so, since what I wrote seems to scream “I am so wise and deep and think about the world and life and the human condition a lot” like nothing else. Frankly it’s a miracle I didn’t end up on r/IAmVerySmart.

My reaction when I read my own posts from a couple of months ago.

The lack of meaning in life and existence, which is obvious to anyone who has had one too many drinks and sat down to seriously think about life, was the only point of nihilism that I really knew. And it misses the point of that whole school of thought. I still have no clue what ‘nihilism’ is, but I do know that it isn’t what I thought it was.

There was a time in mid-2017 when I was so enamored by this concept of ‘philosophy’ and how it affects our lives that I devoted an unhealthy amount of time to it. I burned through Crash Course’s Philosophy playlist in a single sitting, watched dozens of TED-Ed videos, had WiseCrack on repeat, and binged on Philosophize This! like it was my job.

The unhealthy obsession would have been enough in and of itself, but I went a step further and started writing about it. This is where things went haywire. I created a multi-part series where I would explore the different perspectives on death by different schools of philosophy. I published two pieces and had two more set for publishing before I decided it was better not to.

At this moment, I know for a fact that even if you read every work by every philosopher and read up on every school of philosophy, you will still not know how to live life. My anxiety about my eventual death and decay hasn’t vanished since I wrote about what Socrates and Epicurus had to say about it. Binging on half a dozen YouTube playlists hasn’t resulted in anything tangible from me. And it probably never will, which I’m okay with.

At its heart, I think, it all boils down to being seen as ‘informed’ about this topic that is reserved for ‘intellectuals’. A wish to be seen as ‘different’ from everyone else, because while everyone was chasing money and material gains, I was thinking hard about the really tough questions and the answers that have eluded us. A wish to be seen as a deep, wise man.

What I mean to say is, if you spend your whole life trying to learn how to live, you’ll never live your life. You’ll just have spent it listening to what dead philosophers thought about it. And let’s get honest for a second, most of what these philosophers thought and taught doesn’t work in real life or in today’s world.

So while it is not possible to live without at least some sort of personal philosophy, it is possible to live without binging on philosophy videos. And that’s a change I’m happy to have made.